“There is more to Art than the straightness of lines and the perfection of surfaces.”
(Flaubert, Préface à la d’écrivain)
Sol LeWitt manipulates the visual language of the line to create a conceptual grammar that is embedded in a creation of blank and negative space. The economy of line creates a dialogue with which to communicate ideas with lines that create a sense of contrast and balance between the form and the conceptual thought.
The interrogation and exploration of line in LeWitt’s etchings construct relationships and repeated patterns that create a conscious sense of abstraction. Aside from initial ideas on paper, LeWitt’s work is largely constructed under strict instruction and rules by others such as his studio assistants. From this a strong industrial and utilitarian connection is communicated within the prints with each line perhaps being representative of a line of thought, taken and transposed into a visual object.
Sol LeWitt, (1973) no title, From Straight Lines in Four Directions and All their Possible Combinations, [Etchings on paper], 27.3 x 27 cm, Tate Modern, London. Image© The estate of Sol LeWitt
Although printmaking is arguably inherently a sequential form that develops a series of works almost naturally, LeWitt’s work acts as though underpinned by a cause and effect mechanism.
"If the artist carried through his idea and makes it into visible form, then all the steps in the process are of importance. The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product." (LeWitt, 'Paragraphs on Conceptual Art', 1967)
LeWitt expressed his ideas through a visual language formed through a series of lines and geometrical shapes. The raw almost industrial feel of the prints (and the process of printmaking) could be representative of LeWitt expressing bluntly that art is fuelled by materialism and driven economically.
Sol LeWitt, (1999) Small Etching/Black & White No.4, [Etching on paper], 21 x 21 cm, Tate Modern, London. Image© The estate of Sol LeWitt
The geometric linear monochromatic prints share in my opinion parallels with the work of Agnes Martin (1912-2004), where her paintings form a quasi-visual representation of data veiled by a rational grid system. Within both the work of Martin and LeWitt, a manipulated perspective is constructed by a seemingly mathematical and meticulous approach that results in a visual balance and rationalised composition.
Agnes Martin (1965), Morning [Acrylic paint and graphite on canvas], 182.6 x 181.9 cm, Tate Modern, London. © Estate of Agnes Martin / DACS, 2009
Viewing both the prints of LeWitt and the paintings of Martin there is a strong sense of deep intellectual thought, with an emphasis placed on reflection. It is as though the artists are asking us to pause and connect mentally with the lines of the linear forms to intertwine our thought processes with theirs. Ultimately though it feels as though the lines are tracing our existence to connect the viewer with their own being.